Fall is my favorite season and it has finally arrived. The air is cooler and the sky appears bluer as the changing leaves strike a more dramatic contrast. These are the days that make Minnesota exceptional and I want to exclaim, "This is why I live here!" But I also know these days are few in number and will soon give way to the snow and ice of winter.
But for now, it is fall and I'm trying to enjoy every minute of it. On Monday, I went for a walk around Lake Nokomis and stood on the beach reveling in the sight of sun on water. Then, I turned to follow the path around the lake and noticed the swing set that looks onto the water.
Suddenly, I remembered all the times we brought the kids to that beach when they were little. We didn't come often but the memories are so clear. I could see chubby baby bellies covered in juice from popsicles, tiny feet covered in sand. I remembered wrangling small, squirmy legs into the holes of the baby seats on the swings and could even picture my mother pushing Zeca on the swings as if they were both there with me in the moment, even though my mom is long gone and Zeca is far from the baby she was then. I stood on that playground and smiled for all the good.
I smile entirely too much lately. I smile at the young mothers with babies in slings because I remember the feeling of my own babies pressed tightly against me. I smile at the willful toddlers in the grocery store because I remember my own with their lisps and opinions and small grabby hands. I smile at stories of young kids navigating preschool and the excitement of new friendships because I remember my own kids doing the same - waving hello, holding hands, awkward hugs with children they knew and I didn't.
It's nostalgia. Revisionist history. I know that all those stages of childhood we've left behind came with their own struggles but I feel fortunate that the good has erased the bad or at least painted it in more forgiving colors.
It's so different now. I think about last weekend at the high school soccer games. We sat in the bleachers and watched Miguel play and our friends' kids were there as well, kids I've known their entire lives. They didn't sit with us, of course. They sat across the field from us, huddled together whispering and laughing., and then chatting with other kids we don't know. After the game, Miguel joined them and they - along with a group - decided to stay for the other games and we left them there after emptying our pockets of cash.
This age is a new season too and it comes with unique struggles but also so much good. Just as fall will soon give way to winter, the kids are getting older and growing towards what is next. And just as I have learned to love winter, I know I will learn to love the stages still ahead. So, for now, I am doing my best to breathe deeply and appreciate every moment. Sun on water. A long hug from my teenager. Baking cookies with my tween. I'm grateful for all of it.